All posts by Sal

About Sal

Sally McKeown is a trainer and journalist, offering informed comment on all matters concerning educational technology and special needs, including dyslexia.

Thank you, Barclays!

ATEC is coming! Barclays are sponsoring an Assistive Technology Exhibition and Conference (ATEC) to be held at Jury’s Inn in Oxford on May 17th.

It is fast becoming a Go-To event for those who assess and support people with disabilities in universities and the workplace and more importantly for people who need assistive technology for work, for study or to communicate with others.

TDebra Charles smallhere is loads of good stuff for people with dyslexia: Debra Charles is doing one of the keynotes. She is
CEO of her own smartcard technology firm Novacroft, the company behind the Oyster Card, and believes that her success is because of, and not despite, her dyslexia.

Find out about the latest versions of Claro and TextHelp, mind mapping from Matchware and Inspiration, The C-Pen Reader which reads text from print books and Notetalker that lets users capture information from a lecture or a meeting.

global autocorrect smallAs someone who uses Autocorrect on Word and types entirely in abbreviations, I am keen to see Global AutoCorrect which works with all programs from presentation software to emails, the web and social media. It frustrates me when I have to type every letter on Facebook. Maybe now I won’t have to.

There is some whizzy new technology. David Finch from Star College in Gloucestershire will be talking about a project called Ember. The idea is to reduce employer or mentor support and help trainees to work more effectively and more independently.

There is also an assistive robotic arm called JacoTM developed by The ACCESS Research & Development Department at Hereward College with charitable funding from Npower.

I am also keen to hear Abi James of University of Southampton and BDA New Technologies Committee. I often wonder why some people embrace technology while others reject it from the off. I used to think it was all about training and support in the early days, now I am not so sure. Abi is researching this area and will be leading a discussion on the role of professionals to improve the take up of technology.

Book your place now at http://www.ateconference.com/
Tuesday, 17th May 2016 Jury’s Inn 30 Godstow Road, OX2 8PG

The Grumpy Sheep improves performance skills at Stannington First School

Caroline Hoile, a qualified music therapist and teacher, is now one of the foremost children’s songwriters in the UK. Her company, Grumpy Sheep is based in Newcastle upon Tyne and began publishing in 2000. Her musicals, Christmasnativities and songbooks go off to primary schools and nurseries throughout the UK and abroad, as well as to music stores and bookshops, church groups and theatre groups, and are performed by thousands of children each year.

Over the years Caroline has noticed that her musicals give children the chance to develop and show a different side of their characters. They have to work individually and /or in a team. Taking part in a musical gives them an opportunity to dance, act, speak in public and sing,’ said Caroline. ‘Apart from the obvious musical skills children develop, good songs are a great teaching tool – and because they’re having fun, children don’t realise that they are learning!’stannington grumpy sheep

Helen Stokoe is head teacher at Stannington First School in Morpeth, Northumberland. She is something of an expert as her children performed the world premiere of Squirrels! the Musical. This is entirely appropriate as she explained: ‘We have red squirrels living in the churchyard which is opposite the school.  The squirrels have also been seen in the playground and the children keep a tally chart recording squirrel sightings.’ The school was working with Katy Cook of Red Squirrels North East, a conservation partnership, to increase their knowledge of all things squirrel just as Caroline Hoile decided that this would be an ideal subject for a Grumpy Sheep musical.

‘We have used numerous Grumpy Sheep plays before, including ‘The Most Disgruntled Snowman’ and ‘The Hoity-Toity Angel’ and were very excited at the prospect of being the first school (in the world) to perform Squirrels! the Musical,’ said Caroline. ‘On looking at the script we soon had the parts allocated and set about learning the songs.’

What did the children at Stannington First School get out of it? ‘Collaboration, confidence in performing, listening skills, learning things by rote, just having fun!’

 

 

Social networking and gaming dominate young lives

ICT and Me was a research project published in September 2015, it was conducted by The National Children’s Bureau Northern Ireland (NCB NI), with the support of the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister. It was a longitudinal survey in Northern Ireland, studying the link between young people’s levels of access to, and usage of, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and how this subsequently impacts on GCSE attainment.

Read the full report here http://www.ncb.org.uk/media/1229655/ict_me.pdf

ch in NI

 

Key finding 1

Access to a computer/laptop at home is not an issue for the vast majority of young people with at least 95% reporting having access. However, despite the fact that only 5% report not having access to a computer or laptop, when scaled up across the top 40 schools in terms of deprivation, c.1,000 young people are potentially without access, placing them at significant disadvantage.

Key finding 2

Young people spend a significant amount of time online each day with one-third of young people spending four hours or more online in Year 1 rising to 40% in Year 2 of the study.

“I’m constantly on it to be fair.” (Pupil)

“You just always have to have a check to see what people are up to.” (Pupil)

“I always be checking my phone, even when I wake up in the middle of the night.” (Pupil)

Key finding 3

Social networking and gaming were identified by parents/carers and teachers as activities that could most negatively impact on young people’s attainment. Findings from this research confirm a link between extent of gaming and GCSE attainment, e.g. only two-fifths (41%) of pupils who reported using a portable games player a couple of times a day achieved 5A*-C GCSE grades compared to over three-quarters (77%) of those who reported rarely using one. No relationship was observed in terms of social networking.

Key finding 4

School staff were particularly concerned about extent of gaming, reporting a number of issues relating to attendance, punctuality and motivation. Particular issues identified in relation to male pupils with gaming addiction noted in some instances.

Just over one quarter of pupils stated that they play online games alone (27%) or with others (29%) on a daily basis. Further analysis of the survey revealed that males were more prolific users of a computer/laptop for playing games (either alone or with other others) with 42% of males playing games alone every day compared to just 12% of females. This finding is comparable with the literature which shows males are more likely to play online games than girls (Kids Life and Times survey, 2009; Mascheroni and Olafsson, 2013).

Key finding 5

Almost three-quarters (72%) of the young people surveyed as part of this study stated that they feel safe online. This corresponds to findings published by YouthNet (2011) which found over 75% of young people thought that the internet was a safe place. Parents/carers who participated in the focus groups/interviews appeared much more concerned for their child(ren)’s safety whilst online than the young people themselves –

Key finding 6

Social networking can negatively impact on young people’s concentration, distract them from their homework and can be a platform for bullying behaviour. Indeed many of the young people noted that Facebook, in particular, distracted them from their school work.

A study published by YouthNet (2011) suggested that it is common for young people to multi-task, with 90% likely to use different technologies at the same time.

“Definitely people would be texting and doing their homework at the same time or eating or watching TV whilst on Facebook at the same time.” (Pupil)

“If someone messages you on Facebook, then you go on your newsfeed and you end up spending half an hour on it looking at funny photos and videos and before you know it, it’s bedtime.” (Pupil)

The face of hatred

the defendantIn 2014 my article Healing the Hate  was published by Access magazine.

Just this week, a 25 year old man who used social media to harass a man because of his disability has been sentenced to six weeks imprisonment.

Saul Nyland, from Whitworth in Rochdale, pleaded guilty to two counts of harassment of the 31 year old victim who has a severe speech impediment and some physical difficulties caused by an accident in childhood. The defendant and victim work in the construction industry and have worked alongside each other on several sites in the past year.

The victim is a plant operator and had set up a number of Facebook pages offering advice and information about diggers and tractors. The sites had attracted a number of followers.

Liverpool Magistrates’ Court heard that between December 2014 and July 2015 the defendant harassed the victim on social media and by phone.

Lionel Cope from Mersey-Cheshire Crown Prosecution Service said: Nyland targeted the victim and harassed him because of his disability. Nyland subjected the victim to a tirade of abuse online including posting a number of photo-shopped images of the victim which were hugely upsetting to both the victim and his partner.

“When the victim blocked Nyland online, he began ringing the victim on a nightly basis, mocking him for his disability and threatening to harm him. He also started to post abusive messages on the Facebook site of the victim’s partner.

Saul Nyland was sentenced to six weeks imprisonment, with a Victim surcharge of £80, and a Restraining Order of two years. An extra two weeks was added to his sentence because of the hate crime uplift. He was sentenced on Monday 25 January.

 

 

 

 

 

Campaign – Make a noise for selective mutism

To donate, please text MAKE 15, followed by the amount, to 70070 
Shannon went up on stage one day at the age of 3 to sing in front of a big audience. No sound came out of her mouth but there was nothing wrong with the speakers. Shannon was paralysed by anxiety and was physically unable to get her words out.shannin

 

Most children will have an experience like this, especially when they are very young but for Shannon it was the first sign of a condition called selective mutism. At least 1 child in 150 is affected and it is caused by extreme anxiety.

It is also three times as common in bilingual children. Figures from 2013 show that 1 in 6 primary school pupils in England do not have English as their first language. In secondary schools the figure stands at  just over 1 in 8 (Naldic http://www.naldic.org.uk/research-and-information/eal-statistics/eal-pupils). Figures are likely to increase and more teachers will find themselves working with pupils who have this condition. It can be frustrating.

Children with selective mutism can appear to be confident (even cocky) but then freeze with a blank facial expression (which can look challenging and confrontational) when speech is expected from them. It is not a matter of choice for them. It is a condition triggered by stress and anxiety.

To highlight this condition, SMIRA, the Selective Mutism Information and Research Association, is launching the ‘Make a Noise’ campaign to help children find their voices. Think of creative ways to make a noise. Take a video on your phone, post it to social media and ask viewers to ‘text MAKE 15, followed by the amount, to 70070’.

SMIRA has a special Makeanoise4SM page on facebook where you can upload your video, or use your chosen social media outlet adding the hashtag #MakeaNoiseforSM or tag @InfoSmira on Twitter.

See http://smira.org.uk/make-a-noise-for-sm.html for ideas of activities.

Money raised will be used to develop training for health and education professionals and for those involved in the care and welfare of selectively mute children.

Life changing technology

Technology used in the right way at the right time can change lives. it helps people to pass exams and get jobs. it also gives them back their self-respect and independence as this story shows.

Pete Gustin 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taken from All channels open: Inside The Inclusive Radio Revolution first published in Access magazine April 2015

http://www.accessmagazine.co.uk/all-channels-open-inside-the-inclusive-radio-revolution/

 

Mathleticism

Mathletics is better than Facebook

I am not sure what 3P Learning paid for the endorsements but one pupil at Hovingham Primary School in Leeds reckons that Mathletics is better than Foxy Bingo and another likes it more than Facebook.

Mathletics is a very popular resource used by more than 5,000 schools in the UK and since 2007 has run World Maths Day an online international mathematics competition.

Now it has expanded to become The World Education Games incorporating World Literacy Day and World Science Day. It is the world’s largest online educational competition with over five million school students taking part.

This year The World Education Games is due to take place 13-15 October 2015 with some exciting new features – see http://www.3plearning.com/worldeducationgames/  for more information and to pre-register your interest.

Jayne Warburton, CEO at 3P Learning, is promising some big name celebrity ambassadors over the coming months so sign up and start practising and perhaps your students will become walking advertisements for the Magic of Mathematics.

Beside the seaside, beside the sea

Britain is getting more multicultural but is not quite as exotic as many children seem to think.

A recent survey by Travelodge showed that: ‘ Children seem to be completely clueless when asked to locate popular seaside haunts.’

40% couldn’t locst ivesate Bognor Regis (some think it’s in Europe)

35% couldn’t locate Newquay (some think it’s in the USA)

60% couldn’t locate St Ives (some think it’s in the Caribbean)

Six in 10 couldn’t locate Scarborough (some think it’s in the Mediterranean)

56% couldn’t locate Skegness (some think it’s in the Scottish Highlands)

Travelodge recommends ditching the Sat Nav and getting out maps.

You can see how the confusion starts. Bognor is in Europe after all, although it has a strong UKIP presence which perhaps wishes it wasn’t. Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed in ST Ives and Skegness is obviously where the monster goes on his holidays.

Travelodge surveyed 2,000 British children aged between eight to fifteen years old. This year 56% of families are flocking to the coast this summer. Top holiday destinations include Cornwall, Devon, Blackpool, Brighton and Bournemouth.

It’s a good idea to help children find where different towns and tourist resorts are in the UK but don’t throw away the Sat Nav.

Groupcall – a lot of texts, a lot of help

I recently spent an afternoon with a group of teachers at The Thinktank in the heart of Birmingham learning about the latest advances in Groupcall technology. The teachers were from primary and secondary and were there to find out about Groupcall Messenger 5, the latest version of the Parental Contact system that reads pupil and attendance information live and in real time from the school’s Management Information System.

gc1Groupcall is used by more than 5,000 schools.  It is inextricably linked with Sir Bob Geldof, one of the co-founders, and was set up with the aim of improving communication between schools and parents. I knew that but during the afternoon, courtesy of Steve Baines, International Business Development Manager, I learnt a whole lot more.

Here are ten things you may not know:

  1. Every single second 193,000 texts are whizzing round the world
  2. Messenger lets schools send text, voice or email messages to parents’ mobile phones or landlines. In Scotland they use a lot of voice messaging, and believe voice gets a better response. With Messenger schools can record a voice or use an automated text to voice facility
  3. A text can have a maximum of 160 characters. This is the default limit and is based on the notion that a text is supposed to contain roughly the same amount of information you would fit on a postcard. Longer messages can, of course, be sent but increase costs accordingly
  4. Messenger 5 features e-cards so schools can create certificates which are sent via email and can be printed out. There are templates for Merit Awards, Thank Yous and Well Dones but staff can make their own if they have a basic knowledge of HTML
  5. Messenger lets schools translate messages into 64 languages. These are the Google Translate alpha languages. Of course, you’ll be flummoxed if they send the reply in the home language
  6. On average once you press Send it takes 13 seconds for the message to reach a parent’s phone
  7. The History section of Messenger 5 shows who has received the text. This can be useful if parents claim hey have not see a text or email
  8. Messenger 5 will let parents send notification of a child’ absence via text so if a child has been sick all night, parents can send a text instead of hanging on and trying to send a message by phone in the 830 to 9 o’clock slot
  9. Xpressions is a FREE app for parents that will work on Android, iPads, iPhone or other smartphones. Imagine a school trip. A teacher can send a text message to parents direct from a smart phone instead of notifying the school and getting them to relay a message. This makes communication more immediate
  10. OFSTED is very keen on engaging parents and Xpressions is a fine example of push technology that will integrate with other systems such as Show My Homework, FasTrack

 

 

 

Young entrepreneur saves young people from exam stress

Schools are like conveyor belts. Children go in at the age of 3 or 4 and come out at 16 or 18 having been weighed, measured and processed. As they get near the end of the line, many start to panic and thrash about as they worry what to do when they fall off the end.

Every year the examination season seems to start earlier and YoungMinds Parents’ Helpline receive calls from thousands of parents distressed by the exam pressures facing their children. National Revision Week started today – 20th April and already stress levels are mounting.

Gojimo, producers of a free exam app, surveyed over 500 students found that nearly a third (31.5 per cent) were already at level 5 which is ‘Terrified and freaking out.’ Despite exam terrors, many do not start their revision until the last minute. They know they should start 8 weeks before the due date but many leave it till just 5 weeks before. Even worse, 71.3 per cent of students claimed they get little or no support from their schools, although many teachers would claim that they provide advice and guidance but that the students do not listen.

George Burgess3Now there is a handy FREE revision app created by George Burgess who founded Gojima in 2009 in his last year of school. ‘Back then, I was a 17-year-old student working from my bedroom. I had one very basic app, helping students revise for their Geography GCSE exam.’

George was caught working on his new business in class and expected to be in trouble but ‘Instead Mr. Williams was fascinated by the whole project and asked how he might help or get involved. It struck me immediately that having a teacher write content would make it more reliable, and a lot more credible. I asked if he would be willing to write a bunch of Geography GCSE quizzes. He agreed. I had my first author.’

Obviously, George was just the sort of pupil who would have stayed calm under exam pressure and these days all candidates can benefit from his skills because Gojimo is now the UK’s leading exam preparation app with free assessment content for GCSEs and A-Levels.